Featured Composer: Richard Mills

Source: Dame Nellie Melba Opera Trust

Source: Dame Nellie Melba Opera Trust

Richard Mills is deservedly one of Australia's most sought after composers and music directors. In recent years he has pursued a diverse career as a composer and a conductor, which has seen him working with a large number of the nation's music organisations.

Mills's works are regularly performed throughout the world. Compositions range from major orchestral and choral works to ballet music. Commissions for the Sydney Symphony include Tenebrae, Emblems, and Totemic Journeys. Requiem Diptych was commissioned and premiered by the Chicago Chamber Musicians Brass in 2001. His symphonic/choral work for the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, The Little Mermaid, was premiered in August 2005.

Victorian State Opera commissioned Mills to write an opera of Ray Lawler's Summer of the Seventeenth Doll, which premiered in Melbourne in 1996, and received a Sydney season in 1999. His second opera, Batavia, was commissioned by Opera Australia and was premiered at the Melbourne Festival in 2001 to great acclaim, consequently receiving a number of Green Room and Helpmann Awards. He has been commissioned to write a new opera for the 2007 Perth International Festival with subsequent performances in Melbourne and Brisbane.

The performance of Wagner's Tristan und Isolde in Brisbane in 2005 with the Australian Youth Orchestra under his baton won a Helpmann Award in 2006, and he will conduct it again in staged performances in Perth later in 2006.

His CD recording Richard Mills Orchestral Works with the Queensland Symphony Orchestra has become a best seller on the ABC Classics label. His three volume CD of the film music of Franz Waxman with the same orchestra was awarded a Deutsche Schallplattern Kritiks Preis in 1992, and he has conducted recordings with the West Australian and Tasmanian Symphony Orchestras.

Mills continues a high level of involvement in the community through such commissions for the 1982 Commonwealth Games, the 2000 Olympic Games, the 2006 Commonwealth Games, and the Australian Bicentenary re-orchestration of Charles Williams’ Majestic Fanfare (the ABC news theme). In 2005 he was honoured with the Ian Potter Foundation Award for Established Composers.

Currently, he is Artistic Director of Victorian Opera, Senior Fellow at the Faculty the VCA and Music, University of Melbourne, and Director Emeritus, Australian Music Program with the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra.

Richard Mills' piece, Ganymed and Leda, was premiered in PLEXUS: Pantheon on 2 April 2014 at the Salon, Melbourne Recital Centre, as part of the Metropolis New Music Festival.

Ganymed and Leda (2014)

The composer writes: “This little diptych expresses two kinds of exposure to the Devine, here personified by Zeus as Father, engendering a pantheistic mystical union; and Zeus as creator/ destroyer, in the form of a swan violating Leda and begetting the troubled house of Atreus. One poem is an ascension to ecstatic encounter with the all loving father, the other a document of Devine decent to earth and subsequent cruelty and indifference to the suffering of the human condition.  These two experiences of the absolute are played out every day in our lives. The harmonies of the first song are restless and unstable, the second song revolves around static pedals punctuated by violent concertante gestures. The music is dedicated to PLEXUS with my best wishes and love.”

© Richard Mills 2014